The Denver Nuggets always seem to play well when Carmelo Anthony is in town and tonight was no different. A big performance from the starting lineup, including a 20-10 night for Kenneth Faried, fueled a victory that never really was in doubt past the mid second quarter. Kristaps Porzingis was a virtual non-factor and Denver's youth dominated the game on the way to a 110-94 victory
The Nuggets opened the game on a fast start, breaking out an 8-0 run from the opening tip. However, they went ice cold after that and missed their next six shots to allow the Knicks an 8-0 run of their own. Denver rode their young core from then on and after the brief cold spell, Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris all contributed on offense along with some help from the Manimal. The highlight of the quarter was a nice alley oop from Jokic to Harris on a play that normally would be drawn up fro Danilo Gallinari. A couple of nice drives from Mudiay ended out the quarter with a 31-25 Nuggets lead.
The Knicks bench fought back when the second quarter began and a Jerian Grant layup gave New York their first lead of the game at 35-33. Derrick Williams in particular was doing work against the Nuggets. Once Michael Malone subbed back in some of the starters Harris immediately hit a three which was followed by a vicious Manimal slam and the Nuggets took a six point lead. From there the Nuggets front court combo of Faried and Jokic started dominating the game and they pulled ahead by as many as fifteen points but a poor close to the quarter left Denver leading by just eleven, 60-49
Jakarr Sampson picked up an early foul which caused Malone to go with a rare big front court of Jokic-Faried-Arthur. The energy for Denver overall was poor and the Knicks quickly closed back within single digits. Denver had a tough time converting on offense and midway through the quarter the Knicks were still within striking distance but after a timeout the Nuggets energy improved and Malone rode the starters plus Arthur instead of Sampson lineup until about three minutes left in the quarter to push Denver back into a double digit lead. Then there was a hockey style shift and the bench closed out the quarter strong aided by a pair of Arthur threes.
The Knicks opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run, aided by some vintage Afflalo before Axel Toupane converted an and one at the other end. The Nuggets picked a bad time to get cold and Porzingis picked a bad time to finally start scoring which forced Malone to take a time out with the Knicks closing in. Harris came out of it with a jumper and Jokic followed with a tip in to give Denver some breathing room. Both teams were playing pretty sloppy with four minutes remaining which is when Mudiay checked back in and with Porzingis on the bench the Nuggets would go small ball to close it out. DJ Augustin went on his token fourth quarter scoring binge and Denver put away the Knicks, 110-94.
Key match up: Arron Afflalo vs Gary Harris
Afflalo had some good minutes to open up the fourth quarter but he was otherwise a non factor. Harris outscored him and outplayed him throughout the night and was one of numerous Nuggets in double figures. In the preview I talked about how Afflalo and Gary are similar in a lot of ways but Gary is definitely the more athletic of the two. I think that's what makes me feel like his ceiling is higher than Afflalo's ever was. Gary can shoot it just as well but he's got that raw speed and power to make the hard drives and finish above the rim. He's also a much much better defender.
Key thing to watch for: Can the young guns keep it up
Yes they can! Jokic, Harris and Mudiay all scored in double figures, again, with Big Honey leading the three with twenty. However, Faried, the 26 year old elder statesman of the lineup, was the most impressive Nugget tonight. Ever since the trade deadline he's been playing lights out basketball and he once again was the best player on the floor tonight. Faried plays so well with this sans Gallo lineup and on more than one occasion tonight he was the benefactor of an extra pass.
Closing thought: No Gallo has been a good thing
Without a doubt Gallo is the best player on the Nuggets and they are a better team when he is playing, but his absence is doing wonders for the rest of Denver's young players. When Gallo is in there it feels like the rest of the players relax on offense. There's not as much movement, there's a lot of standing at the perimeter and clearing out for a Gallo drive. Without him, Harris, Mudiay, Jokic and Faried are working in harmony on offense and the result has been points for all. Here's hoping once Gallo returns he becomes a dangerous weapon in a well oiled machine and not the sole reliance for scoring.
Box score via ESPN.com